Indie Monday

Today’s guest: Linda K. Sienkiewicz

This week on Indie Monday I’m happy to host award-winning author, poet, and artist Linda K. Sienkiewicz. Linda’s short stories, poetry and art have been published in numerous literary journals. Among her awards are four Finalist awards for her novel In the Context of Love, a Pushcart Prize Nomination, and a poetry chapbook award from Heartlands. She has three other poetry chapbooks. She studied at Cooper School of Art in Cleveland, Ohio, and has an MFA from the University of Southern Maine. Linda is a member of Detroit Working Writers, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

This week Linda will talk about her most recent release, a children’s picture book, Gordy and the Ghost Crab.

DL: Congratulations on your new picture book! We’re anxious to hear what it’s about.

LKS: Thank you, Don! 

In Gordy and the Ghost Crab, Gordy’s big brother scares him by telling him that ghost crabs will snip off his toes and eat them. When Gordy sees a ghost crab in danger of being taken away from the beach by a girl with a net, he has to make a fast decision: stay away or save the little crab. 

The story highlights empathy, problem solving, and caring for nature for children ages 3 – 8. 

I designed a comprehensive teacher’s guide; email me at lindaksienk (at) live (dot) com for a copy. Here’s the link to a book trailer that I’ve prepared: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvOKoTdmbRs.

DL: What inspired the creation of the book?

LKS: My grandson, then three, was frightened by ghost crabs that live in deeps burrows along the shore when we vacationed in the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We couldn’t find him a book on these interesting creatures. My daughter said, “Mom, you’ll just have to write one for him.”

DL: Could you talk about your writing process? Did it differ from the way you’ve written your other works? 

LKS: I have a brother, nine years older, who loved to tell me wild stories, so the idea of the scary story and the rescue came quickly. I approached editing much the same as working with a poem or short story. What is the character arc—in this case, Gordy’s? What’s at stake for Gordy, besides his toes? And what’s at stake for the ghost crab? 

DL: Did the pandemic affect the writing or launch?

LKS: I believe we’ll eventually be back to having book festivals and fairs, and I can sell that way. I hope to visit east coast bookstores and gift shops in Virginia and the Carolinas in the spring. So much of selling involves online networking, and that hasn’t changed.

DL: What was the best part about writing this book?

LKS: My friend, poet MaryAnn Wehler, suggested I rewrite the story in rhyme. I knew it would be difficult, but I couldn’t resist trying. In the end, I think that’s what makes the story so much fun to read aloud.

DL: What was the most challenging part of writing this book? 

LKS: After I decided to illustrate the story myself, I had to learn about children’s picture book layout, and then decide what to illustrate. I’d gone to art school over forty years ago, and we didn’t learn to draw on iPads or other drawing apps! This was all new to me. There’s also an art to picture books, a way to get children to turn the pages, and to stimulate their imagination, too, that I had to learn. Honestly, it was daunting, but I was determined. 

Originally I had one page of information on ghost crabs in the back of the book. After my editor, the brilliant MaryChris Bradley, laid the entire book out, we ended up with several more pages. So I went back to research and the drawing board! Now, readers can learn about different kinds of crabs, and what makes ghost crabs unique. 

For example, did you know ghost crabs are the fastest of all the crabs in the world? Do you know what the smallest crab is? The largest crab? Or that horseshoe crabs are not really crabs at all?? There’s lots of fun in this book for kids and grownups.

DL: How can readers purchase it or get a signed copy?

LKS: The book is available on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1941523226/)
and Barnes & Noble (https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/gordy-and-the-ghost-crab-linda-k-sienkiewicz/1138253716), or readers can order it from any bookstore.

I also offer signed copies directly from me in my Etsy shop (https://www.etsy.com/listing/902198984/gordy-and-the-ghost-crab-picture-book).

DL: Thanks so much for joining us this week. Any final thoughts you would like to share?

LKS: I never imagined that I’d write a children’s book. I have a novel and several poetry chapbooks; I’ve published in anthologies and literary journals. I do enjoy reading to my grandchildren, however, and admire well-written and illustrated books. Writing one myself never interested me until inspiration struck. 

And then, like anything I do, I doggedly pursued it. I can be obsessive, in a good way.

So, if you’re a writer with an idea, no matter how difficult or farfetched it seems, go for it! When I was struggling with so many unknown aspects of this venture, I asked myself, What have you got to lose by trying? You know, in the end, there’s really nothing. You always learn something. 

And don’t ever think that you’re too old to learn new tricks.

DL: How can readers connect online with you?

LKS: Here are my contacts:

Website: http://lindaksienkiewicz.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lindasienkiewicz.author

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lindaksienkiewicz/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/lindaksienkwicz/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindaKSienkwicz

The First Two Chapters of the Newest Martin Preuss Mystery

In the House of Night is the newest entry in the Martin Preuss mystery series. Published in October of last year, it’s one of the darker books in the series, due to its subject matter. In the book, Preuss faces off against a group of white supremacists–a subject much in the news in the wake of the domestic terrorist attack on the Capitol Building in Washington, DC, this week.

Without giving away too much of the plot, I’ll just note that the ideas for the book took shape for me in the wake of the violent Charlottesville, VA, neo-Nazi Unite the Right rally. That event was chilling and horrifying, and I knew I needed to incorporate far-right extremism in my next Preuss book in some way.

The book is set in 2013, before the events of Charlottesville. But it traces the most recent beginnings of a movement that has been present in American culture since its beginning.

The members of the group in the novel are fictional, but they’re based on considerable research into not only the reach of far-right extremist groups, but also their connection with Christian nationalism.

Neither of these is apparent in the beginning chapters; Preuss, like the reader, must unfold the connection as he plunges deeper into the investigation.

Here, then, is how the events of In the House of Night begin. The paperback version may be purchased through Amazon or on order from your favorite bookseller; the Kindle version is available through Amazon.

1

Brittany Fortunato was not happy.

“Has anyone seen Charlie?” she asked.

No one had.

Charlie Bright, the recording secretary of the Woodland Park Improvement Association, had not missed a meeting in ten years. Tonight might be the exception.

The Association met on the second Tuesday of every month in the Media Center at the Roosevelt Elementary School in Ferndale, a city that lay beyond Eight Mile Road north of Detroit. Like many neighborhood associations, it had a small number of officers—a president, vice-president, and treasurer, in addition to the secretary—and a dedicated core of a dozen or so residents who attended every meeting. 

Typically, the president would call the meeting to order shortly after seven. They would work through their agenda, and the evening would end with chatting, good-natured ribbing, and the newest gossip over plates of cookies and cups of coffee from the local Biggby Coffee.

Often they invited a guest to speak about issues of interest to the city’s residents. Tonight’s guest was the police chief of Ferndale, Nick Russo. The topic was local crime statistics. 

Ferndale was exceptionally safe, especially considering its proximity to the larger metropolis of Detroit. So Russo saw his primary task tonight as calming nerves and assuring the residents that things were under control. A big, muscular man, he made an impressive sight in his blue full-dress uniform, complete with cap under his arm as he stood talking with attendees. 

He seemed unruffled and relaxed.

Not so Brittany, the Association vice-president. The more people who said they didn’t know Charlie Bright’s whereabouts, the more agitated Brittany became.

“Brittany,” the Association president said at last, “what’s going on?” 

The president’s name was Elspeth Cunningham, and she tried but failed to keep the disapproval out of her voice. Brittany was a troublemaker while trying to appear reasonable and friendly. 

What’s her problem now? Elspeth wondered.

“Charlie isn’t here yet,” Brittany said. “We can’t start without him.”

Elspeth shot a look at the clock on the wall. Quarter after seven. “Odd,” she agreed. “He’s never late.”

 “Right?” Brittany said. “I talked to him this morning, he said he’d see me here. And we have to get started. I promised the chief we’d be done by nine.”

 “I’m yours as long as you need me,” Russo said.

 “But we can’t start without Charlie,” Brittany said again. “Who’s gonna take the minutes?”

“I will,” said a man seated at one of the kid-sized library tables, eager for the meeting to begin so he could get home in time to watch Rachel Maddow.

The Association officers looked at each other and shrugged. “Okay,” Elspeth said. “Let’s get started.” 

She called the meeting to order.

They adjourned at eight-thirty on the dot. Charlie Bright never showed.

“Now I’m really worried,” Brittany said as they stood around the refreshment table. “This is totally unlike him.”

“Maybe an emergency called him away,” Elspeth offered.

“Charlie never misses a meeting,” Brittany said. “Something’s not right. I’m sure of it.”

They all exchanged worried looks—Brittany’s concern was contagious—and everyone’s glance settled on Chief Russo.

“If you want,” he said, “I can get somebody over to his house, make sure he’s okay.”

“Would you?” Brittany asked. The others’ heads bobbed in agreement.

“Not a problem,” said Russo. He pulled out his cell phone and turned away while he called the Ferndale Police Department dispatcher.

“I hope he’s all right,” someone said.

Russo disconnected and turned back to the group. “A unit’ll swing by his house.”

 With the group slightly calmed, Elspeth unwrapped the tray of cookies and invited them all to dig in.

2

Patrol Officer Paul Vollmer stood on Charlie Bright’s front porch in northwest Ferndale and waited.

When nobody answered the doorbell, which Vollmer heard ringing inside the house, he knocked hard on the substantial wooden entrance door. 

Still no response. 

He shone his flashlight through the dark living room windows. Vollmer couldn’t see anyone moving inside.

He came down off the porch and walked around to the back. All the doors and windows were secure. A light shone in the kitchen but he couldn’t see anyone there. Behind the house was a garage, but the door was closed and Vollmer couldn’t see inside.

He walked around to the front again.

“Yoo-hoo!”

Vollmer turned and saw an older woman peeking around the storm door of a house across the street. 

When she saw him looking at her, she waved him over.

He strolled across and she said, “Are you looking for Charlie Bright?”

“I am. Have you seen him?”

“Not today.” She must have been in her late seventies or early eighties but her voice was high, almost girlish. She had silver hair set in plump curls and she held a wool coat bunched at her throat against the night’s chill.

“Is that unusual?” Vollmer asked.

“Oh yes,” the woman said. “I always see him during the day. Usually in the morning before he goes off for his day.”

“But not today?”

She shook her head.

He looked back at the dark house. No car in the driveway or the street.

“Maybe he’s out of town?” Vollmer suggested. 

 “He would have told me if he was going away. I always watch his house for him.”

 She opened her palm and showed a shiny brass key. “I have the key to his house, if you need it.”

Vollmer thought for a moment. 

On any other night he would let something like this go, but it came directly from the chief, so . . . 

Better see it through. 

He opened his notebook and said, “Can I get some information from you first?”

He smelled it as soon as he entered the front hall, a sweet scorched odor, like burning paper. There had been a fire in here. 

Vollmer switched on his flashlight. The house was larger on the inside than it looked from the street. The front hall opened onto a stairway going up; to the left was a sprawling living room, and to the right was a dining room. The table there overflowed with piles of mail, some opened, some not.

“Hello,” he called. “Ferndale Police. Anyone home?”

When there was no reply, he called again. “Ferndale Police. Mr. Bright? Is anybody here?”

Silence.

Vollmer went into the kitchen. No dirty dishes in the sink, the counters clean and tidy, the oven empty and cold. Vegetables in twisted shapes Vollmer had never seen before hung from the ceiling in wire baskets.

 A door off the kitchen led to a stairway down to the basement. The burnt odor seemed to originate there.

 Vollmer proceeded down the stairs into a basement that was as clean and uncluttered as the kitchen. Very different from mine, he thought; his own cellar was filled with boxes and tools and old chairs and end tables piled high from his wife’s antique furniture refinishing sideline. 

This one, in contrast, held orderly rows of bookshelves with hundreds of hardcover books. Behind one of the bookcases a cot had been set up.

The joists overhead were scorched, but had not caught fire. Fortunately for the house, and for the surrounding neighbors.

A light was on in a room in the rear of the basement. The burnt smell was strongest here. 

Vollmer looked into the room, which was set up as an office, with a desk and more bookshelves and file cabinets. On the desk, a laptop computer and printer had been smashed to pieces. 

In the center of the floor was a large pile of ashes. Vollmer bent down; they were cool. They seemed to be the remnants of sheets of paper, curled and blackened but smashed down so the contents were unrecognizable.

Sticking out from a pile of academic journals between the desk and a file cabinet were two running shoes connected to two legs. 

A man’s body.

Vollmer leaned in and looked into the grey face of an older man. 

He felt for a pulse in the man’s neck. 

Nothing.

The man’s skin was cold to the touch. His sweatshirt was dark with blood and seemed to have a dozen slashes through it.

Vollmer knew the detectives and fire inspector would not want him poking around here any longer than he had to. If this was Charlie Bright, he was very dead.

Vollmer called it in and went upstairs to secure the scene and wait for the cavalry.

Indie Monday

Today’s guest: J. Q. Rose

Me in mustang 400 x 300

My blog returns today, tanned, rested, and ready after a few months off. In its latest iteration, I’ll be alternating my own posts with posts featuring indie and small-press authors who have new books out.

This week I’m happy to host award-winning author and humorist J.Q. Rose. A resident of Western Michigan, she has written both fiction and nonfiction. Her nonfiction books include Girls Succeed!: Stories Behind the Careers of Successful Women(2014), Romance and Mystery Authors on Writing: Tips on the Writing Process, Publishing and Marketing (2015), Your Words, Your Life Stories: A Guide for Sharing Memories (2019), and Quick Tips on Vegetable Gardening: Starting Your Garden (2015). Her mysteries published by Books We Love Publishing are Terror on Sunshine Boulevard (2nd ed., 2019), Deadly Undertaking (2nd ed., 2019), and Dangerous Sanctuary (2nd ed., 2019).

This week she will be talking about her newest book, Arranging a Dream: A Memoir. 

Rose-ArrangingADream

DL: Congratulations on your new book! We’re anxious to hear what it’s about.

JQR: Thank you, Don. I appreciate the opportunity to shout about my new release, Arranging a Dream: A Memoir, a book I have been writing for about six years off and on. The information from the back of the book explains what the memoir is about:

In 1975, budding entrepreneurs Ted and Janet purchase a floral shop and greenhouses where they plan to grow their dream. Leaving friends and family behind in Illinois and losing the security of two paychecks, they transplant themselves, their one-year-old daughter, and all their belongings to Fremont, Michigan, where they know no one. 

Will the retiring business owners nurture Ted and Janet as they struggle to develop a blooming business, or will they desert the inexperienced young couple to wither and die in their new environment?

Most of all, can Ted and Janet grow together as they cultivate a loving marriage, juggle parenting with work, and root a thriving business?

Follow this couple’s inspiring story, filled with the joy and triumphs and the obstacles and failures experienced as they travel along the turbulent path of turning dreams into reality.

DL: What inspired the creation of the book?

JQR: I have presented workshops on writing life stories for years, and I encourage people to record their stories for their family and friends all the time. I thought it was about time for me to do what I say. I also wanted to pen this slice of my life for our daughters and grandchildren. As I wrote the story, I realized it was a story about having a dream and turning it into reality. I think these days, more than ever, people bury their dreams due to the many obstacles they would have to overcome to achieve them. I don’t want anyone to look back at their life and have regrets for not trying to have a career in something they are passionate about.

DL: Could you talk about your writing process? Did it differ from the way you’ve written your other works? Did the pandemic affect the writing or launch?

JQR: I am a mystery author and have three published mysteries. I enjoy making up stories. With a memoir, one must tell the truth. So that was the first difference in putting a story together. I didn’t have to research too much since I was writing about my life, but I did check with friends and family about situations to see if I had the facts correct. Memories are not too reliable. The way I remembered the story was different from what they recalled. Since I was the author, I wrote the experiences as I remembered. Otherwise, the writing process was the same for all writing. Sit in the chair and write!

Yes, the pandemic made a big difference in the writing and release of this book. My publisher had slotted June 2020 for the release. I was perking along, getting the story written…until COVID hit. I tried to complete the story, edit it, but I was so scattered. I couldn’t focus. Did you feel that way too? My publisher, Jude, realized we were all having a difficult time concentrating and could not produce our best stories. She offered to delay the releases for those authors who needed to have the time to re-focus. She scheduled my new release date for January 1. I am thankful she was so thoughtful to understand how much time it took to get it together. Plus, I’ve started the new and hope-filled year 2021 with a bang!

DL: What was the best part about writing this book?

JQR: Talking to folks who shared my experiences in the good old days was so much fun. Reminiscing with the people you love leads to a LOT of stories, not just the one I was focused on. Remembering the good ole days is one of the best gifts this writing experience gave me.

DL: What was the most challenging part of writing this book?

JQR: I believe picking it up and starting again to put together the story when one is still reeling from the reality of the COVID-19 tragedy that affected and affects the whole world.

DL: How can readers purchase it or get a signed copy?

JQR: The eBook of Arranging a Dream is available at all major online booksellers.

Kobo  https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/arranging-a-dream

Nook BN.com https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/arranging-a-dream-jq-rose/1138258568?ean=2940164728984

SW https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/1054054

Amazon  https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08NDZNYQJ

The paperback is available at Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Arranging-Dream-J-Q-Rose/dp/0228615542/

DL: Thanks so much for joining us this week. Any final thoughts you would like to share?

JQR: Every person who goes back to re-examine their life comes away with a different perspective when viewed through the lens of time. Yes, I have a deeper appreciation for what our life-changing decision gave us for our family. I also reveal in the book the mind-blowing realization I had after writing the book.

Also, I’m giving away an ebook copy of Arranging a Dream on my stops during the virtual book tour to a lucky commenter. Please check my blog (below) for details!

Connect online with JQ:

J.Q. Rose blog http://www.jqrose.com/

Facebook http://facebook.com/jqroseauthor

Telling Your Life Story and Memoirs Circle FB Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/telllifestories